04 May 2016

Daily Deluge

"In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four-and-twenty hours." Mark Twain, speech delivered at the New England Society's Seventy-First Annual Dinner, New York City, Dec. 22, 1876.

The National Weather Service in Blacksburg (Virginia) announced that our area was in the first stages of a drought just ten days ago. April was exceptionally dry in a month when spring rains are more typical. After a cold beginning, the month became unseasonably warm. The one exceptional night of 21F (-6C) produced widespread damage on Stratheden's flora. Even the grass in the pastures had growing tips killed. Several small trees that I planted 3-6 years ago and were flourishing had all their brand new leaves frozen. All looked bleak but in the last week, it appears all chlorophyll laden residents of the farm, large and small, have recovered without long term damage. Perhaps the hay yield will be normal.

freeze damaged Golden Rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata)

My wonderful neighbor came by several weeks ago with his tractor mounted tiller and in about 15 minutes, turned all of the large garden. After letting it remain fallow for all of 2015, the weeds and grass roots were sufficiently large and strong as to choke the small tiller. My deepest thanks to him for saving me a couple of days of hard hand labor. The next step in the large garden is to replace the deer fencing which was damaged badly last winter, presumably by wildlife. Ten 9 foot T-posts await being pounded in to reinforce the extant posts. once that is complete, new deer fencing must be raised. Then, once the area is protected, seedlings may be set and seeds (pumpkins and squash) may be planted. The small garden is about 50% planted with the remaining area awaiting seedlings maturing in peat pots becoming large enough to transplant.

leading edge of the storm
 The farm and flower garden are in bloom. The drought seemed to be slowing the maturity of wild plants but last Saturday, the drought broke dramatically with 1.7 inches of rain, followed by a like amount on Monday. Suddenly, the ground went from being powdery dry to gooey mud. A week ago, my concern was whether garden seeds would germinate due to lack of moisture (the 75F days were otherwise perfect for germination); now the concern is whether they will damp off or drown (tomorrow's high is forecast to be only 51F, too cold for almost any seeds to germinate). As Grandfather Field said, farmers are never content with conditions.

Springtime tasks include tractor maintenance (especially greasing fittings) and the change of accoutrements. After a final pass at grading the driveway to repair the vagaries of winter's influence, the blade is now safely tucked away in the barn, hopefully for the season, replaced by the E Z Lift (the entire swap process without mashing a single finger). With it in place, it can be used in lieu of a ladder to stand on whilst pounding in the T-posts. Much more convenient (and safe) than a step ladder on uneven, soft ground.

And a sample of what is currently blooming around Stratheden Farms:
Clematis on the patio

Cranesbill geranium

Virginia Sneezeweed?
Fire Pink

Five blooms on one stalk

This iris is the size of my hand!

Peonies ready to burst with blooms

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